Interview Preparation: Know Yourself

Originally published on Mrs. Professionalism July 17, 2012.

Interview or visit to the dentist? Interview or an hour of traffic on your way home from work? Interview or working on a Saturday? For many of us it would be hard to choose which scenario we would prefer. Why is this? Because we all perceive an interview to be just as uncomfortable, just as painful as a visit to the dentist or sitting in traffic for over an hour or working on a Saturday. Why are we so uncomfortable with the interview process when it is an inevitable step in landing that coveted job that we want so badly? I think it is because people don’t know how to properly prepare for an interview. Sure, we all may get that butterfly feeling in our stomachs right before the interview and that is normal (that means that you care), but we shouldn’t dread going to an interview.

So, outside of knowing about the company (inside and out), knowing whom you are going to be interviewing with, and the inevitable questions you will be asked, i.e. why do you want to work here, how can you better prepare yourself for an interview to make the interview process more comfortable?


I think an important part of being comfortable in an interview is knowing who you are, i.e. knowing what your flaws and weaknesses are as well as your good qualities. I am currently reading the book How To Wow by Frances Cole Jones, which is a good read for those of you looking to make a good impression at work and with colleagues. In Chapter 4, Jones discusses the interview process and suggests making a list of 3 words that describe yourself. I know, I know, when an interviewer asks these questions we never know how to answer them correctly – should we be honest or should we make ourselves sound better than we really are? But for this exercise just be honest. Write down 3 words that you think  accurately describes you.

My three words would be as follows: Reserved, Hard-Working, Punctual

NOTE: While it should have been easy for me to come up with three words it was rather hard. I find it very difficult to describe myself to others, but maybe this exercise will be easier for you.

The next step, according to Jones, is to ask those around you whether those descriptions of yourself are accurate. Jones says that doing this will allow you to properly see how others see you, which can be completely different from how you see yourself.

If I were to ask those around me whether I was reserved, some people would agree while others, those that I know very well, would laugh in my face. The reason being that when I don’t know someone well I am reserved and shy, and have been told that sometimes I look unhappy or mean. But for those who know me well, they know that in new situations I am shy and that I am not being mean. The ones who know me well see me as the talkative woman who isn’t afraid to voice her opinion, but for those who just meet me they see something completely different.

So, how does doing this exercise help? For me it is helpful to know that people perceive me as reserved. Why? Because employers want people who are exactly the opposite – talkative, personable, outgoing. So, knowing that I come off as reserved and kind of bitchy helps me know that when interview time comes I need to smile a little more and talk a LOT more. Knowing how others perceive me makes it easier for me to work on my problems before stepping foot inside the interview room.

Is being something that you are not easy? No, but you can work on it. While I would never want to work in a work environment where the people didn’t like me for who I was, I understand that an employer wants an employee that can go out there and talk to potential clients. So, to feel more comfortable in the interview and to have a chance at landing the job it is important to portray that image that the employer wants to see even if it isn’t you all the time. There is nothing wrong with working on your flaws, and for me that means trying to be a little more outgoing.

If you find yourself nervous about the interview process try this exercise. Write down 3 words you would use to describe yourself in a work environment, ask those around you whether those are accurate perceptions, and if some of those perceptions are off try to work on being more like the word you described yourself as.